Child Head Trauma: the worst day of my parenting experience so far

steps

steps

It started as any other day would have begun. The kids all woke up earlier than we prefered, but their smiley faces and a lot of coffee made the early hour a little more bearable. We went about our day with our normal morning routine. It was a nice autumn Sunday and my husband went off to watch the football game with a group of friends. I was playing with the girls when my son called for me from his room. He was supposed to be napping, but he had yet to fall asleep. The girls and I made our way upstairs to check on him and I made sure the gate on the top of the stairs was locked. It was. I went into his room and instantly knew he needed a diaper change.  As I am changed him, I heard the gate on the top of the stairs open. I asked my oldest to please close it and wait for me before going downstairs.

Only she didn’t hear me. She went down the steps with the gate still open. I quickly finished changing the diaper and went into the hall just in time to watch my 9 month old baby attempt to crawl down our steep stairs -a sight that still haunts my nightmares.

Thud.

Her head hit the top step and she paused. I ran over to get her thinking I would catch her before she fell. But I wasn’t fast enough.

How could I not be fast enough to protect her?!

 Thud, Thud, Thud, Thud.

In utter disbelief, I saw her roll down the entire flight of wooden steps and land with a quiet thump at the bottom of the steps. I heard a scream of horror come out of MY mouth that jolted me back to reality.

Did that really just happen? Is she alive? 

I flew down the steps and then I heard Elliette cry. Tears streaming down my face because I knew she was alive. It was the best cry I have ever heard. I carefully picked her up and held her still so she couldn’t move her back or neck. I ripped off her clothes to check her over and saw no obvious bumps or bruising. Grabbing the phone with shaky hands, I called 911.

Chaos.

I tried to explain to the emergency dispatcher what happened while Elliette was crying and the other two were talking and asking questions. I called my husband to come home. He promptly arrived as the ambulance pulled into our driveway. Being too young to grasp what happened, the older kids were excited that firemen, police and EMS were at our house. I remember being terrified as I climbed into the ambulance but I kept making stupid jokes as if that would make everything better. I watched helplessly as they secured Elliette’s bucket seat to the bed in the back of the ambulance and off we went to the hospital. I held her hand and tried to bravely comfort her.

Baby Elliette in PICU
Baby Elliette in PICU

At the hospital we did not wait long to be seen. The doctors were amazingly calm and helped me understand that she as long as he was alert, she was doing well. They explained everything to me in a way that didn’t cause me to panic. Then we discovered she had a small fracture on her skull and a little bit of bleeding in her brain.  We were admitted to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, even though the Doctors were optimistic.

For three days I held her -scared to let her go, scared of what could be. But we were lucky. Extremely lucky. In the PICU I heard other parents talking with doctors. Their outcomes were different. I selfishly said a silent prayer thanking God for saving my baby and for Elliette’s Guardian Angel who had to be watching out for her. I wished for a quick recovery.  After staying one night in the PICU, we were released to the children’s floor for the rest of our stay.

My lucky and healthy baby girl about a month later.
My lucky and healthy baby girl about a month later.

Elliette was fast to recover, although she had a big bulge on the side of her head that lasted about 6 weeks. The neurologist told me that it was ok for it to be there and it would gradually go away. (He was right, it did). My selfish prayers were answered. At her six week check-up, she was fine. We were one of the lucky ones that day.

Worried about a head injury? I’d err on the side of caution and call 911 or head straight to the ER if you have any concern.  You can also find more information here.

 

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